Fernandinho: The new boy from Brazil
Fernandinho claims to have taken a pay cut to join Manchester City. So what is the attraction? Steve Tongue finds out
It all began at Newcastle United, with a team that had finished 17th in the top flight the previous season. The Brazilian they proudly paraded in the summer of 1987 as the first from that exotic country to join an English club may not have been a Socrates or a Zico, but the gawky little striker called Mirandinha was a trailblazer.
His credentials included having scored for Brazil against England at Wembley in May of that year and he lasted two seasons at Newcastle, scoring 20 goals before falling out with the manager, Jim Smith, as United were relegated in bottom position.
It would be another eight years before their local rivals Middlesbrough stunned football by signing a genuine talent and authentic Brazilian in Juninho for the first of three spells with the club, and although the list of his compatriots braving the British weather since then has grown, it has tended to feature a certain type of player: not many strikers, few genuinely creative midfield players in the Juninho mould – until Chelsea signed Oscar last year – but plenty of defenders and fewer attacking midfielders, nevertheless perceived to have the skill-set associated with the beaches on which they are all assumed to have learnt the game.
Manchester City found that Robinho, having cost a British-record fee at the time of £32.5 million, did not fit in, which has not deterred them from paying almost as much for a different sort of Brazilian. Fernandinho has spent the last eight seasons with Shakhtar Donetsk, which is in itself testimony to an ability to survive in a different culture and play at a high level. Last season in the Champions' League he made more tackles and interceptions than any other Shakhtar player and in the 3-1 defeat by Arsenal in last weekend's friendly an affronted Jack Wilshere was among those left on the floor by the force of his challenges.
Speaking through an interpreter while learning a fifth language to add to Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Italian, he said: "I feel well suited to the game that is played in the Premier League. I know that many Brazilians haven't been well thought of in England because of the different style of play here. I want to change the perception that people have over here about the way that Brazilians play.
From what I understand, English teams are fearful about signing players straight from Brazil. This is because of the different style of play and the different culture, and the belief that maybe Brazilians are not well suited to the Premier League. Maybe there is some truth in that. Perhaps England does have a unique football style that Brazilians struggle to understand."
The point about players coming straight from Rio or Sao Paulo is a valid one; eight seasons in European football should prove invaluable and has at least offered abundant time for scouts to do due diligence. They could have learnt plenty without venturing further than London: Fernandinho was outstanding in the Champions' League against Chelsea last season and has also scored against Spurs at White Hart Lane. "I know there were negotiations between Shakhtar and Chelsea," he said. "Shakhtar told me they had refused an offer. There was also a stage a year ago when I spoke to people from Tottenham, but nothing came of that."
He is clear too on one of the main virtues demanded in England: "I think one of my biggest qualities is my consistency. I believe my performances do not go up and down to any great extent. I don't have a fantastic game one week and a bad game the next. What I offer is more balanced, I tend to play at the same level."
In a season that will end with a World Cup in Brazil, he needs that level to be sufficiently high to demand the attention of the national manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari. Of the player's five international appearances, four came two years ago.
"I decided that I had to leave Ukraine to play in a strong league that would help me get the attention of the people in charge of the Brazilian national team. I will try to do my best because it would be great to play in the World Cup, especially at home."
Difficult as it may be to believe of a player joining City, he is understood to have taken a cut in salary. "Why should people be surprised by that?" he asked. "Maybe England should have more players who don't only think of money. If I only wanted money and a comfortable life from my career, I would have stayed in the Ukraine. I was happy there, I won six titles, I knew everyone and I was a big part of the club. But I was presented with the challenge of coming to Manchester City and I am aware that over the last few years this is a project that has grown a lot. The owners and the people who are managing the team wants to win titles and big trophies – and I wanted to be a part of that.
"Of course, I will be paid as a professional footballer, but the only thing I am greedy for is success. In my country we say that football is like a huge plate of food – well I want to eat everything."
Anderson Man United
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool
Fernandinho Man City
Fabio da Silva Man United
Heurelho Gomes Tottenham
Lucas Leiva Liverpool
David Luiz Chelsea
Guilherme do Prado Southampton
Lucas Piazón Chelsea
Rafael da Silva Man United
... Brazilian old boys
Alex Chelsea 2007-12
Julio Baptista Arsenal 2006-07
Geovanni Man City, Hull City, 2007-10
Gilberto Silva Arsenal 2002-08
Juninho Middlesbrough 1995-97, 1999-00, 2002-04
Robinho Man City 2008-10
Roque Junior Leeds 2003-04
Kleberson Man United 2003-05
Andre Santos Arsenal 2011-12
Emerson Thome Sheff Wed, Chelsea, Sunderland, Bolton, Wigan 1997-06
Manchester City v Newcastle is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow night, kick-off 8pm
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